In which I think about making iterations of Dungeon World
I’m adjacent to the Old School Revolution. It’s not my cup of tea, probably because I didn’t teethe on D&D (or at least, not on the older editions), but it’s a marvelous community if you want to see the idea of genetic mutation play out in front of your eyes. By that I mean that the OSR folks all have their own vision of what they want; almost all of the systems share a nougat-y center of AD&D’s mechanics and their attendant baggage, but each tweaks or twists some part of the system.
These changes are usually born out of years of experience at the table; they’re codified house rules…and there’s something very appealing in that multiplicity. Each game is someone’s platonic ideal, but they all wrap around the same logic, the same basic assumptions about gameplay.
What surprises me, then, is that we haven’t seen the same kind of multiplicity for Dungeon World. The text is all Creative Commons, and the game itself is a hack of Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World, so why aren’t we seeing more iterations?
Don’t get me wrong–Dungeon World has spawned a lot of content, but it’s mostly additive rather than adaptive. You plug it into the game directly. It’s a new playbook, or a collection of items, or a set of adventures. There’s not much out there that’s looking at Dungeon World itself, as a system, and asking: How can this be changed?
Some of that might be because hacking in Powered by the Apocalypse systems often encourages you to go ahead and make your own system, but Dungeon World has been a really unique beast, a nearly perfect ambassador game for folks who’ve never dabbled in narrative-first gaming. It’s great to have a go-to system, but Dungeon World is more-or-less 5 years old, and there’s been a lot of innovation since then, especially for PbtA gaming.
All that to say: What can we do with Dungeon World?
I’ve been noodling around something that’s loosely inspired by Numenera, where characters might get an Adjective-style playbook that mainly hooks into their Basic Moves. So if you’re Charming, you can use your time, attention, and wiles as leverage when you Parley. If you’re Dauntless, maybe you get +1 when you Defend, or never really fail when you Defy Danger against coercion, or…
The idea being that you could be a Charming Warrior, a Dauntless Warrior, or a Brainy Warrior, and have those give you some basic ways of building and tweaking your archetype.
If you want to get really Numenera-y, you might even give players access to a playbook that defines a narrative arc they want for their character–a Charming Warrior Set on Revenge, or a Dauntless Warrior In Search of Redemption. I imagine there’d be some special narrative pacing in them, like Quests in Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, but that’s a ways off, anyway.
So, what can we do? How can we play around with Dungeon World in ways that feel complete, rather than piecemeal? What harm comes from fracturing a player base, even when the systems share their core logic? Who is the Muffin Man?
Lots of questions.